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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 August, 2004, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
More top grades in A-level exams
Mackenzie Howe

As students across the country receive their A-level grades, figures show Welsh pupils have achieved above average results.

The Welsh pass rate has increased to 96.5%, which is half a percent higher than the UK average of 96%.

The number of papers awarded the top A grade have also increased by 0.5% and now account for just under a quarter of the total.

This is 1% higher than the UK average, according to the statistics from the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC).

Girls continue to outperform boys across the UK although the gap is said to be narrowing.

Clearing numbers
Aberystwyth 01970 622 000
Bangor 0800 085 1818
Cardiff 029 20876000
Swansea Institute 01792 481010
Newport 01633 432432
Lampeter 01570 424600
Swansea 01792 295097
Trinity, Carmarthen 01267 676767
University of Glamorgan 0800 716925
NEWI 01978 293045
UWIC 029 20416 040

Thursday's results will be a cause for celebration for thousands of teenagers and were welcomed by Welsh Education Minister Jane Davidson.

She said: "This is an absolutely tremendous set of results.

"I am delighted that once again students in Wales have made 2004 another successful A-level year.

"These results are a tribute to the hard work and application of our young people coupled with the dedication and professionalism of our teachers.

"Everyone must be congratulated on their tremendous achievements."

Students in Aberystwyth

Ms Davidson strongly denied that examinations were getting easier, pointing out that the overall pass rate in Wales went up by just 0.1% compared to last year, the smallest statistical increase which could be measured.

She told BBC Wales: "In all my years as minister - this is the fourth year I have responded on A-levels - people have carped about standards.

"But nobody has ever shown me or my colleagues in Westminster or my colleagues in Scotland any evidence that all the things the regulatory bodies put in place to determine standards year-on-year are failing.

"I do not believe they are."

Zubair Saeed
Zubair Saeed, of Fitzalan High School in Cardiff, with four A grades plans to study medicine

The WJEC accounts for 64% of A-level and AS papers taken in Wales.

There was an increase of 3.5% in Advanced Subsidiary (AS) entries in Wales however there was a reduction of 0.2% in the pass rate compared to 2003.

Teaching unions too have welcomed the higher pass rate - saying the results are a tribute to the hard work of pupils across Wales - and of the teaching staff.

Heledd Hayes of the National Union of Teachers said it showed standards had been maintained.

She said: "I think today the thing we need to do is celebrate and congratulate our young people on achieving magnificent results yet again and indeed thank their teachers for the hard work they have put in."

Gareth Pierce of the WJEC added: "When we set a mark for a particular grade, that is always set in context with previous standards, so there is no question of standards diminishing."

Sue Jenkins of St Julian's RC High School in Newport said: "The quality of teaching and learning in Wales has improved - and that has been recognised by Estyn.

"Now we have the results; it should be a time for celebration."

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